The Canadian Blood Services is coming to Westlock March 7 for a blood drive, but recent changes to donor guidelines could affect who can give and how often.
As of March 5, men must have a minimum hemoglobin level of 130 grams per Litre to donate, a slight increase from 125 g/L.
Hemoglobin levels for female donors will remain at 125 g/L, but women will have to wait longer the next time they want to roll up their sleeve. Since Dec. 10, their wait time between donations increased from 56 to 84 days.
Judy Jones, Canadian Blood Services associate director of donor relations for Alberta, said the changes stem from tracking iron levels of frequent donors and noticing decreases each time.
“We have been doing some research with other organizations around the world and we’re making sure we have the health and well-being of our donors top of mind,” she said. “Given these new criteria, this will help them be able to donate and actually be in a healthier state as they come in to donate.”
In the case where a female donor’s hemoglobin and iron levels were too low, she would not have been eligible to donate at that time.
Certain factors like age and time of the month affect iron levels in women, but for men, iron stores are the biggest factor at play.
Since women make up 51 per cent of donors, Jones said 35,000 donations would be affected by the timeframe changes. That’s why Canadian Blood Services are looking for 100,000 new donors this year, but so far they are 27,000 short.
“We’re trying to encourage any new donors to come in to offset those women who may not be able to donate as often,” she added.
Jones said male donors can give up to six times a year, but they may notice lower iron levels if they donate three or more times.
“For men, it’s really making sure we’re looking at their health and giving them an opportunity to just be at the right peak as they come in to donate,” she said.
At this time there has been no impact on patients since blood of lower quality would not have gone into the system.
“What we’re trying to do is a pro-active approach to help our donors, so there haven’t been any patients that have been affected by these iron levels,” Jones said.
“Normally what we say to the donor when they come in is,
‘At this time, it’s probably not best for you to donate because your ferritin levels are not as high as they should be.’”
Because hemoglobin isn’t something that can be measured at home, she recommended donors eat iron-rich foods, take iron supplements if possible and drink lots of water two days before coming into the clinic.
Potential new blood donors can check out blood.ca for more information on their eligibility.
Recent travellers can also see if they are still eligible since returning.
The blood drive will run from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Westlock and District Community Hall.